Antique Golf ClubsA BRIEF HISTORY

Shortly after World War II, a consortium of Companies was formed in Johannesburg called the New Union Merchant Industrial Corporation (NUMIC) with a certain Michael Florance as Personnel Officer. Because of the diversity of the various subsidiary companies, Mike Florance was authorised to implement his proposal that a NUMIC Social & Sporting Club be formed to enable the Staff members to get to know each other. Being a keen golfer, Mike became the Honorary organiser of the NUMIC Golf Club. Not having a course of their own, they had to obtain the courtesy of the course on which they played, but in those days Saturday mornings were a slack time for local golf clubs and it was a pleasure for them to host an organised, thirsty group of golfers. Membership was soon extended to business associates and friends and meetings became even more enjoyable.
Mike evolved a modus operandi for the club, incorporating several features new to the South African golfing scene, all of which added to the interest and enjoyment of the participants. So the NUMIC Golf Club went on its merry way, giving much pleasure to its members for a number of years - until 1959.

In that year NUMIC unbundled and the NUMIC Golf Club held its final meeting that March. At this meeting, Mike and a fair number of members felt that an organisation which had engendered such great camaraderie and enjoyment should not be allowed to disappear and as Mike said in a follow-up letter on the subject, he "was assailed on all sides to continue, in some form or another, a similar type of association." Still not having a course of their own, it was logical to change from NUMIC to NOMADS and so in 1960, shortly after the life story of American golfing legend, Ben Hogan, was portrayed in the movie "Follow the Sun", Mike Florance and his committee announced the formation of the "Follow the Sun" NOMADS Golf Club under the aegis of the National War Memorial Health Foundation. 

The lapel badge adopted was similar to the badge we have now hanging from the name bar but it consisted of a bell alone with a scroll on the top edge with the legend "Follow the Sun" and "Onthou 1939-1945" immediately above the bell. The background colours were top half - yellow (sun) and bottom - green (grass). The choice of the Bell was prompted by the Meditations of John Donne (and now our Creed) - "For Whom the Bell Tolls", symbolising the aim of the remembrance of those who had lost their lives in the War.

At this time, Mike was also Honorary Organiser of the South African National Golf Foundation which had been formed as a result of a donation from the "Follow the Sun NOMADS" on 18 October 1960 for the promotion of golf among the juniors. So it was no surprise that two additional aims of the new Club were the furtherance of golf and to raise funds for Charity.

The "Follow the Sun" NOMADS Golf Club came into being officially in April 1960, with 106 "Founder" members attending the first monthly meeting scheduled for the first Saturday in May at the Glendower Golf Club. The meeting itself was washed out but what a party! Rain also partially disrupted the second attempt at Parkview so it was June before the first complete official NOMADS meeting took place, this time at the Irene Golf Club. 

The special "Rules of Play" used were virtually the same as those developed in the NUMIC days, and still in use today. The guiding principles being : Fellowship (four ball); Least inconvenience to Club members - avoiding slow play (stableford medal, continuous putting, calling up on short holes etc) and Courteous Behaviour (properly dressed, fines for misdemeanours etc.).

In addition to each monthly meeting being a complete competition in itself, the annual competitions (or their forerunners) were in place so that there was always that little extra to consider when playing your game. In forming the club, it was stressed that a member's first loyalty was to his home club which should always take precedence.

The success of the new club was immediate and membership soon rose to 200 when it was closed as it was impossible to accommodate all those wanting to play. This led to the arrangement of away tours to the Eastern Transversal and Durban where games were played against local clubs.

During 1962 it was decided that funds raised should no longer be donated solely to the National War Fund, but also to promote the game of golf in South Africa (Golforama) and to assist those less fortunate than ourselves. The NOMADS badge was changed to it's present format : a bell crossed by a golf club signifying the remembrance of others through golf. (Now registered with the Department of Heraldry).

After several NOMADS visits, 13 Durban golfers under the leadership of Noel Thompson were given the go-ahead to form a Natal club in September 1963. After a somewhat slow start, the NOMADS concept gradually caught on and with plenty of encouragement from Transvaal, Natal forged ahead.

In the meantime, a certain Louis Immerman in Cape Town, who had heard of the NOMADS concept, was badgering Mike Florance to let him form a club in the Mother City. Eventually Louis had signed up sufficient numbers (45) to warrant the formation of a Western Province club in 1965. With three NOMADS clubs in existence, it was only a matter of time before a "National" Tournament was arranged and this Mike Florance did at Kyalami in 1966. The occasion was so successful and enjoyable that all concerned vowed that it should become an annual event, which has been the case ever since. The publicity generated by this and subsequent early Nationals was of great importance to NOMADS in that it made the formation of new clubs so much easier. In fact, the staging of the first National Tournament must be regarded as a major turning point in the history of the club.

By 1966 the pressure on the Transvaal club to take in new members was such that it was decided to split the club and let John Thornton, Arthur Ferneyhough and their fellow Pretoria based members, form a new club north of the Jukskei. The Northern Transvaal club was launched in April, 1967 with Mello McRobert as Captain. 

At this stage it was felt that the NOMADS Golf Club had reached its peak and no other centres were large enough to support a club. However, Brian Norgarb, an ex-Transvaal NOMAD, now in Rhodesia, clamoured for the formation of a club in Salisbury. Eventually a "Show the Flag" visit was arranged and in 1969 the Rhodesia club was launched.

From 1960 to 1964 Mike Florance ran the club with the help of a couple of members and sponsor's female staff. (notably Helen Inggs of United Tobacco and, later on, Jean Bechet of BP in Natal) In 1965 Ludie Ludeman was elected Captain of the Transvaal club with Mike in the engine room as Match Secretary. With the advent of the first National Tournament in 1966, a National Executive Committee was established with Anthony Handley as first Chairman with Brian Barends as Honorary Secretary. (In memory of his father, Anthony donated the "John Handley Trophy" to the Transvaal and each succeeding club as they were formed.) The Club and its systems continued to develop in an orderly manner until mid-1970 when a major dispute arose over operating expenses. The result was that Michael Florance was forced to leave the club he had founded. However, he never lost interest in NOMADS and kept abreast with it's affairs through friends. In 1989, in recognition of his achievement of setting up such a unique club and with his health rapidly deteriorating, Mike Florance was invited back into the NOMADS Golf Club by the National Council. Mike was buried in his NOMADS blazer in August, 1990.

In the early days of the club, more emphasis was placed on raising funds for charity than promoting golf. And so it was only natural that a fund raising tournament in aid of a national charity was organised in 1967. At the eleventh hour, the sponsor, an international publishing house, withdrew their offer of R1 500 and Andrew Mentis, a NOMADS Founder member, stepped into the breach to sponsor the first of what is now known as the NOMADS National Andrew Mentis Endowment Golf Tournament (NNAMET) which each club holds annually as a training exercise for its Vice-Captain, apart from raising funds to purchase some tangible asset for its nominated beneficiary. This also led to Andrew donating an "Andrew Mentis Trophy" to each club in the family. This original generous gesture has brought Andrew and the NOMADS clubs an enormous amount of publicity amongst the golfing and welfare fraternities as the total amount raised is now (2001), in the vicinity of R11.5 million (excluding funds raised by Zimbabwe).

In 1970, the Western Province club felt that the time had come to take a third look at the Eastern Cape and two "Show the Flag" meetings were arranged in Port Elizabeth. Not only did the NOMADS have a wonderful time, but the seed was sown to successfully grow into a new club. With the assistance of an enthusiastic steering committee, Dennis Howard was able to arrange the Eastern Cape Club launch in October 1972.

In 1974, halfway through his term as second Captain of Eastern Cape, Founder member Joss Hamilton was transferred to East London where he immediately set about organising the Border club. It was inaugurated with 90 founder members in July 1975.

While the coastal development was taking place, the huge golfing population on the Reef was being balked by the virtually static membership of the Transversal club and something had to give. With a number of Transversal members switching over with him, Bill Mosey got the new Eastern Transversal club going in June 1978 with headquarters in Benoni, thus creating the space needed for new blood in Transvaal.

The next move was rather sad. When white rule came to an end and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, NOMADS from north of the Limpopo were forbidden to fraternise with South Africans and the 1980 National Tournament in East London was the last in which they participated. On the other hand, being isolated made them look inward. The old Rhodesia club became Mashonaland; Matabeleland was formed in Bulawayo and Midlands centered in what was Gwelo (Gweru). They now have their own Executive and National Tournament and send a combined team to the South African one.

Although it was some time before any more clubs were established, it wasn't for lack of trying. One group was working in Southern Cape and another in Southern Natal. The Southern Natal group had the advantage of a number of upcountry NOMADS retiring to that part of the world. The two Gillies, Sales and Richardson eventually getting their club off the ground in February 1984 under the Captaincy of the latter. Southern Cape wasn't so easy but after a couple of false starts, Jan de Kock finally got them going at a never-to-be-forgotten Seaboard Trophy meeting in Oudtshoorn in June 1985.

Within a couple of years of their formation in 1965, Western Province membership was closed and it continued that way off and on through the years; the members knowing they should do something about it, but when? A measure of the pressure which had built up can be gauged by the fact that when the Boland club was eventually launched by Bones Nagel in January 1993, they had 180 Founder members and the membership was immediately closed!

By the early 70's, Transvaal NOMADS were making regular "tours" to the Lowveld to the extent that it is now one of their most popular outings. However, it never appeared to them that there was potential for another club. Eastern Transvaal though, had different ideas. Shortly after their formation in 1978, they also started undertaking "Away Tours" to the Lowveld. As time went by, the idea grew that a new club could be formed. In 1994 the National Executive gave Eastern Transvaal the go-ahead to investigate the formation of a new club. A Steering Committee under Dave Tod was formed and a "Show the Flag" meeting held in Nelspruit in March '95. Gerald Bullen was elected to lead the Lowveld party. After much close liaison between the National Executive and the parties, the Lowveld NOMADS Golf Club, with Gerald Bullen as Captain, was officially inaugurated on 17 November 1996 at a meeting at the Nelspruit Golf Club.

Over the years, a number of NOMADS moved, or were transferred, to the Free State and several unsuccessful attempts were made to form a club. However, in May 1996, no less a person than the President of the Free State Golf Union, invited the NOMADS National Chairman, Neale Kunhardt, to address a small gathering of interested golfers at the Bloemfontein Golf Club in this regard. This was followed in August by a "Show the Flag" meeting at the same club at which sufficient interest was shown to warrant the election of a steering committee under the chairmanship of Herman Braam. Assisting him to assess the potential support from both golfers and local clubs, were three ex-NOMADS. The major problem was distance between centres, but the enthusiasm of the steering committee more than made up for this. They were greatly assisted by several more informal games supported by NOMADS from other centres. In August 1997, the National Management Committee gave the Boland NOMADS Club the go-ahead to oversee the formation of the Free State Club with Herman Braam as Captain. The event took place in great style at the Schoeman Park Golf Club on Sunday, 9 November, 1997. 

Meanwhile, sometime in 1993, a group of golfers in Gaborone, Botswana, calling themselves "Gomads", started playing NOMADS style games once a month on a Thursday. Through the Gauteng Club, they applied to the National Executive for permission to become NOMADS. As they have only one 18 hole course and are in another country, they were granted independent status and were inaugurated under their Founder Captain, Julian Harris, on Thursday 5 February, 1998.

That brings us to 2002 with 12 constituent Clubs in South Africa. Will we see more? All that is left really is Western Gauteng and Swaziland - who knows?

On the other hand, NOMADS Golforama is such a well established essential ingredient of all professional golf tournaments in Southern Africa that no tournament is played without it. In fact, this service to golf, originally unique to NOMADS, is now getting more publicity than ever for the Club - a tribute to the original concept and to those NOMADS who have carried the flag in the succeeding years.